Mustangs picked fourth in district pre-season race

FRIENDSWOOD — As the 2019 high school football season approaches, the Friendswood Mustangs find themselves in one of the toughest Class 5A districts in the state.

Last year, Friendswood finished the season with a 6-4 overall mark and 3-4 in district. The Mustangs missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach Robert Koopmann who took over the reigns of the Friendswood football program from former head coach Steve Van Meter in 2012.

Even when Friendswood was moved up to Class 6A for four years in District 24-6A, the Mustangs didn't miss the post-season. But District 10-5A Div. I is a different animal as defending champion Shadow Creek ran through the league without a loss and then advanced to the 5A Div. I state finals where they came up short 27-17 to three-time defending champion Highland Park.

Shadow Creek was a pre-season sixth place pick last year, but no one realized the full array of talent and weapons the Sharks possessed in their first year of varsity competition.

Now the secret is out.

However, the Sharks are not picked to repeat as district champions. That tag goes to the Foster Falcons who came on strong last season to finish 9-5 overall and 5-2 in district.

The Falcons get the early nod this year as they have eight returning offensive starters and seven defensive starters plus 44 returning lettermen.

Foster has all of their offensive skill players returning including pre-season Offensive MVP quarterback Ryan Stubblefield (2,763 yards, 33 TDs passing). Plus a 1,000-plus yard receiver and a 1,000-plus yard running back.

Shadow Creek (15-1, 7-0) isn't far behind while Angleton (10-2, 6-1) is picked third.

The rest of the league features Fort Bend Hightower, Rosenburg Terry, Texas City, and Ball High.

Friendswood will have four offensive and eight defensive starters returning with 27 letterman.

Junior quarterback Luke Grden will lead the offensive threat after he threw for 1,889 yards and 17 TDs last season.

"Luke is the real deal," said Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann. "We are going to throw the ball around a lot because of his ability."

One of Grden's top receivers will be Christian Lee who just committed to North Texas State. The second-team All-District pick caught 37 passes for 569 yards and five touchdowns last season.

The Mustangs will look for other players to step up on the offensive side of the ball that includes RB Noah Palitz (5-11, 175, 4.6), WR Dawson Jackson, WR John McCabe, and OL Ryan Mitchell.

The defense will be ahead of the offense entering the season with eight starters back.

Leading the way will be three-year starter LB Dane Roenne (6-1, 225, 4.8) who led the defense in tackles. He will get help from DE Eliot Spiller (7 sacks), S Trey Mappe (6-2, 180, 4.7), LB Ryan Helton (5-11, 208, 4.6), LB Jackson Stephens (5-11, 200, 4.9), DE Matthew Reyes (6-2, 220, 4.8) S Luke Sanchez, and CB Connor Haines.

"We think we'll be a better team, but District 10-5A Div. I is ridiculously strong," Koopmann said.

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Christian Lee
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Luke Grden
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Dane Roenne
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Trey Mappe
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Ryan Helton